Are nerds people, too?
The private geek:
By David Lake
(IDG) -- They were known as "nerds" and "geeks" in high school.
But now we call them friends.
There are an estimated 27 million "technology enthusiasts" in the United States, representing about 13 percent of all adults. And while they're still likely to watch "Star Trek" and play chess, survey data indicates that their lifestyles and interests are much less geeky than one might expect.
To create a profile, The Industry Standard -- an online and print information-economy magazine -- identified a group of tech-focused adults using data from Mediamark Research Inc.'s (MRI) consumer behavior study. MRI polls 26,000 Americans each year about their buying habits and personal lives, and its data is widely used by marketers.
The Standard defined tech enthusiasts as Americans who use the Internet, have a home computer and own two or more high-tech gadgets. When surveyed, these individuals also say they're early adopters of high-tech products and believe technology is important to their lives.
It turns out that -- using these criteria to sort out Mediamark's survey universe -- geeks are rich. Forty-four percent say they have household incomes of $75,000 or more, and 40 percent graduated from college. But they're not that young -- more than half are between the ages of 35 and 54.
Perhaps most surprisingly, techies say they're not tethered to their computers.
Their survey responses suggest they're more likely to participate in almost all sports and leisure activities than U.S. adults overall.
They travel, and they're heavy readers of newspapers and magazines.
The TV show they say they're most likely to watch? Not "Star Trek" spinoffs or "The X-Files," but "Friends."
Techies say they're early adopters of technology. They say they surf the Web and own home computers along with other electronic gadgets. They say they're obsessed with electronics. According to their responses to Mediamark's inquiries:
78 percent sent e-mail in the past month
51 percent surf the Net for fun
30 percent go online daily
38 percent have a camcorder
27 percent have a home fax machine
23 percent own a home-theater system
21 percent play online games
15 percent have been online for more than five years
9 percent own a minidisk player
7 percent listen to Internet radio
6 percent have a laserdisc player
This group says it's highly likely to read Consumer Reports, Entertainment Weekly, Men's Journal, Outside, PC World, Runner's World, Ski, Spin, the Wall Street Journal and Working Mother.
They say they're less likely to read Ebony, Harper's Bazaar, Health, Hunting and WWF magazine.
Techies say they're highly likely to participate in snowboarding, scuba diving, downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, golf, racquetball, martial arts, hockey and aerobics.
Tech enthusiasts say they're highly likely to trade mutual funds, use a stock rating service, seek financial planning advice and have an American Express Gold card.
In addition to "Friends," techies say they're highly likely to watch "Ally McBeal," "E.T. Weekend," "Malcolm in the Middle," "Star Trek," "The West Wing," "Will & Grace" and "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"
They say they're less likely to watch "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Baywatch," "Candid Camera," Malcolm & Eddie," "Moesha," "Shasta," "Touched by an Angel" and "Wheel of Fortune."
Tech enthusiasts say they keep themselves busy. They're highly likely to make models and ceramics, attend rock concerts, play chess, go to museums, shoot billiards and fly kites.
19 percent classify themselves as liberal, 35 percent conservative, 36 percent middle of the road
46 percent say they've bought a lottery ticket in the past 12 months
80 percent own their own home
18 percent keep tropical fish
70 percent say they bought a book in the past year; 53 percent say they read one
4 million go to the movies at least once a month
A third of techies surveyed said they've traveled overseas in the past three years. They say they're are highly likely to have visited France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Middle East, Russia and Spain.
Here, in chart form, are some more findings of the Standard's breakdown of Mediamark Research data.
|U.S. ADULTS||TECH ENTHUSIASTS|
|Total||200.6 million||26.7 million|
|18 to 24||13%||13%|
|25 to 34||19%||21%|
|35 to 44||22%||27%|
|45 to 54||18%||24%|
|55 or older||28%||15%|
|$75,000 or more||25%||44%|
|$60,000 to $74,999||11%||16%|
|$40,000 to $59,999||21%||21%|
|$20,000 to $39,999||24%||14%|
|Less than $20,000||19%||5%|
|High school grad||33%||23%|
|Did not graduate high school||17%||4%|
|Not employed, retired||35%||21%|
|Three or more||10%||9%|
|REGION OF U.S.|
All statements of likelihood refer to a comparison of tech enthusiasts to U.S. adults overall. "Highly likely" means techies are at least 40 percent more likely to be in the specified group; "less likely" means techies are at least 15 percent less likely to be in the group. Tech enthusiasts include U.S. adults who accessed the Net in the past 12 months, own a home computer and have two or more of the following devices: DVD player, digital camera or handheld computer. The individuals must also say they like technology, find technology important to them and are likely to purchase new technology products. Source: Mediamark Research, Spring 2001
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